St. Louis Cardinals: The Curious Case of Jeremy Hazelbaker
At 28-years-old, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jeremy hazelbaker is out to prove he’s playing better as he grows older.
Drafted out of Ball State University in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox, Jeremy Hazelbaker has traveled a long road to get to the big leagues. Spending six and a half years in the minor leagues with the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, he never hit above .272.
Hazelbaker was released by the Dodgers on May 1, 2015. Twelve days later, the St. Louis Cardinals took a chance and signed him. That’s when something clicked.
Heading into spring training, Hazelbaker had Cardinals’ fans asking “Hazel-who?” They learned quickly as the kid out of Muncie, Indiana hit .304 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI. He also posted an OBP of .373 to go along with four stolen bases.
After the injury bug hit outfielder Tommy Pham, a void was left in the Cardinals’ outfield. The Cardinals kept Hazelbaker on the major league roster to start the regular season, and he wouldn’t let them regret it.
So far in 2016, Hazelbaker has been the epitome of a man on a mission. He’s hitting .280 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
Hazelbaker opened fans’ eyes in March, but it’s what he did on Opening Day in St. Louis that had them saying he belonged in the majors. Hazelbaker went 4-for-4 with an RBI, he was just a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.
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Add that to the fact that he has three pinch-hit home runs, and you have one Tommy Pham who should be concerned about his role with the team when he comes off the disabled list.
More likely than not, the Cardinals won’t keep that many outfielders on the roster, but Hazelbaker is showing he belongs.
Hazelbaker isn’t just showing he belongs with his bat, he’s showing it with his glove too. In 12 games in the outfield, he hasn’t committed an error and he’s made some plays worthy of a highlight reel.
There will be games for Hazelbaker where he’s hot, and games where he’s not (see Sunday’s box score). But, if Hazelbaker can prove that he’s a valuable asset off the bench, the Cardinals may just let him enjoy this sweet, beautiful ride he’s taking on the major league roller coaster.
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